With the fall season upon us and kids settled back in school, it hasn’t taken long for the bugs to come out. Not the creepy crawly kind, but rather the contagious ones…  various upper respiratory viruses causing congestion/cough and strep bacteria causing sore throat.  Over the next few months RSV then influenza season will be here.  With our kids being in such close proximity to each other, and often holed up indoors for most of the school year, the time is ripe for sharing infectious germs. And the contagion doesn’t stop at the school playground. Parents catch viruses from their kids and share them with coworkers, often before we even realize we are sick.

In spite of all of this, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves from illness that goes beyond good hygiene habits like frequent handwashing… and that is boosting our immune systems from the inside out. In addition to getting adequate sleep each night, simple dietary changes can help us fight viral infections. To boost your immune system, go beyond the traditional daily glass of OJ and try to incorporate these delicious options into your diet:

 

Berries

In addition to being a superbrain food, blueberries and other berries can help boost our immune systems because of their high levels of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. These antioxidants bolster our respiratory systems’ defense system helping to protect us against illness.

 

Nuts

Another tasty option, nuts like almonds and seeds like sunflower seeds also contain antioxidants in the form of vitamin E, which improves immune function. Because they can be high in fat, it’s best to limit yourself to about ¼ cup per day.

 

Dark Chocolate

The great news is that the antioxidants in dark chocolate also make it great for fighting infection. One ounce each day of dark chocolate can help your immune system protect your body from free radicals.

 

Veggies

Of course, you need to be eating your daily vegetables anyway, but here’s another great reason: veggies like broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, and red bell peppers can help keep you healthy. Broccoli, spinach, and red bell pepper are all high in vitamin C and antioxidants, with spinach also being an excellent source of vitamin E, which also supports the immune system. Sweet potatoes contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is a source of vitamin A

 

Spices

Season your food with garlic, ginger, and turmeric to eat your way to a healthier school year. Garlic is even considered a home remedy for preventing common colds and can be taken in supplement form. Turmeric and ginger both have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that aid in boosting the immune system.

 

Green Tea and Kefir

Drink to good health with a daily cup of green tea, which contains flavonoids, helping to reduce your risk of catching viruses. Kefir, with its live bacteria cultures, is a fermented drink that may help fight bacteria and reduce inflammation.

While we can’t prevent all illness, we can eat our way to better health. The link between nutrition and our immune system function is undeniable – so be sure to incorporate the antioxidants and other nutrients found in these and other foods into your diet today for a healthier fall and winter.